How to ruin staff side relationships

FlipChary Fairy Tales had an intersting blog post last week on the CIPD’s position to ban union strikes.  The blog makes reference to a CIPD comment that staff side relationships in the public sector are the worst they have ever been.

This got me thinking, as I have to work with a lot of local and regional representatives on a day to day basis around the country.  What I have observed is that the staff side relationships depend on the culture and philosophy of the leaders in the organisation, and primarily the HRD.

This is my list of things that I consider are behaviours or actions that ruin or sustain poor relationship with the unions.

1.  Refuse to compromise, ever.   And avoid all use of pragmatism.

2. View all TUs with suspicion and let this impact your behaviours with them

3. Being unable to justify the business reason for an organisational change, particularly the radical ones.

4. Use language that is too subtle for the message to be heard.  When the change is then announced, it comes as a surprise!

5. Don’t listen to staff.

6. Listen to staff and don’t take action.

7. Listen to staff, make promises and then break them by making a U-turn decision.

8. Take an aggressive approach to policy negotiation, the management of sickness absence or disciplinary issues.

9.  Fail to give the TU’s the “head’s-up” when a significant change is about to be communicated.

10.  Fail to recognise the value that some TU reps bring to the table.

I’ve always advocated good relationships with staff side.  Perhaps it’s because my Dad used to be Chair of his local staff side committee and is now an active TU pensioner?  Perhaps it’s because my uncle was an old-guard Labour MP?  In reality, I think it’s more down to my belief that it’s beneficial to the organisation if the HR Department acts in a way that is fair, listens to it’s staff, is honest and transparent.

We’re going to have interesting times ahead if we continue to demonstrate inappropriate behaviours.  When times are tough, we need to the support of the unions, and alienating them will just make our jobs harder.


What is coaching? 10 definitions

I’m on a quest to understand the nature of coaching.  This week I’m going to bring you an array of coaching definitions that I discovered along the way.   

But before I do, I wanted to highlight that my research has uncovered a huge number of different definitions;  and they vary between “regular” coaching, coaching psychology, co-active coaching (an a-theoretical model!); and executive coaching.   I believe the following is symptomatic of an unregulated industry.  What is heart-warming is that there is some commonalities between the definitions – and perhaps suggests that at some point in the future, the profession can attempt to bring some uniformity and standardisation to the “wild west” of coaching.

 10 Definitions of Coaching

  1. “Unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance.  It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them” (Whitmore 2003)
  2. “A collaborative, solution focused, result-orientated and systematic process in which the coach facilitates the enhancement of work performance, life experience, self-directed learning and person growth of the coachee”  (Grant 1999, basic definition also referred to by the Association for Coaching, 2005).
  3. “A professional partnership between a qualified coach and an individual or team that support the achievement of extra-ordinary results, based on goals set by the individual or team “(ICF, 2005)
  4.  “The art of facilitating the performance, learning and development of another” (Downey, 2003)
  5.  “Coaching is directly concenred with the immediate improvement of performance and development of skills by a form of tutoring or instruction”  (Parsloe, 1995).
  6. “Coaching psychology is for enhancing well-being and performance in personal life and work domains underpinned by models of coaching grounded in established adult and child learning or psychological approaches” (Special Group of Coaching Psychologists, part of the British Psychological Society)
  7. “Coaching is about developing a person’s skills and knowledge so that their job performance improves, hopefully leading to the achievement of organisational objectives. It targets high performance and improvement at work, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s private life. It usually lasts for a short period and focuses on specific skills and goals.” (CIPD 2009)
  8. “Psychological skills and methods are employed in a one-on-one relationship to help someone become a more effective manager or leader.  These skills are typically applied to a specific present-moment work-related issues….in a way that enable this client to incorporate them into his or her permanent management or leadership repertoire” (Peltier 2010)
  9. [Co-active] coaching is “a powerful alliance designed to forward and enhance a life-long process of human learning, effectiveness and fulfilment”  Whitworth et al (2007)
  10. “Coaching is about enabling individuals to make conscious decisions and empowering them to become leaders in their own lives” (Wise 2010 – sorry couldn’t help sneaking one in myself!).

 Interestingly, whilst searching for defintions I came across the following from Bruce Peltier

“A coach must be able to provide a good working definition of coaching and articulate the difference between coaching and psychotherapy”. 

Whilst this sentence might appear on the surface to be self-explanatory, the vast range of definitions can only be a challenge to a coach wishing to provide “a good working definition”.   If only it was that simple……

Misperceptions of Coaching

For a while I’ve been exploring the world of coaching.  What is coaching? What happens during a coaching session? Who accesses coaching and why? 

There have been a couple of surveys that have grabbed my attention:  the 2009 CIPD’s “Taking the Temperature of Coaching” Survey and the 2010 Henley Management College’s Corporate Learning Priorities Survey Report. 

These reports have made the headlines as

“90% of organisations are using coaching” (CIPD)


“61% of respondents said developing a coaching culture was one of their top 5 priorities” (Henley).

These figures don’t appear “real” to me.  I talk to a lot of different organisations due to my “day job” and I have friends who work in all sectors and at different levels of their chosen profession.  To me, these figures seem a bit high.

It’s led me to think that perhaps we (and I include myself in this, as I’m the kind of person who would fill in such suveys) have a misunderstanding about what coaching actually is?  Is this because it’s an unregulated field? 

On a recent LinkedIn discussion forum, a significant number weighed in to give an answer to the question “How would you describe HR to a 10 year old?” 

It was a great question with many diverse answers (is this a reflection on how much our 10 year olds understand?).  But if a group of experienced and qualified HR professionals don’t (or can’t) present a unified definition of their profession, what what chance has the coaching profession?

I decided to dig deeper into these surveys, and interestingly both the authors agree:  The Henley report wonders if there is “an uncertainty about how to go about it or a concern as to whether the senior team will support [coaching]?”;  the CIPD report commented on the high percentage: “This is a very high level and may reflect a re-appraisal and re-labelling of other management practices and programmes”.

From my perspective, the lack of clarity also arises from the fact that some people call themselves a “coach” when in fact they’re not.   And there are a lots of people who “coach” who have not had thorough training or even hold a basic qualification. 

So in essence, I don’t think that I can get definitive answers to my questions.   And whilst the coaching industry remains unregulated, the misuse and misperception of coaching will continue.